India must maintain “healthy scepticism” while dealing with China, a parliamentary panel advised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Government, which claimed that Chinese People's Liberation Army posed no direct threat at Doklam in Bhutan presently.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs cautioned the government against lowering the guard along China-India border, particularly on the scene of the June-August, 2017, military face-off between Indian Army and Chinese People's Liberation Army at Doklam in western Bhutan. The recommendation came after Modi Government told the parliamentary panel that the “status quo” had continued at the site of the face-off after it had been restored following the withdrawal of troops by both sides on August 28, 2017.
The committee took note of the government's position that deployment of Chinese PLA soldiers at present did not pose “any direct threat” to India. It, however, opined that it was “always better” for India to have “a sense of healthy scepticism” while “dealing” with China.
It also noted that while the government “categorically” denied reports of Chinese PLA's build-up near the scene of the face-off, it expressed “an ambivalent view” while confirming such activities for other areas in Doklam Plateau.
The purported build-up by Chinese PLA in and around Doklam Plateau even after the end of the face-off in August 2017 was a subject of a political debate, with the opposition Congress accusing the BJP Government of trying to play down the security threat China continued to pose to India, particularly near the China-India-Bhutan trijunction point of the boundary.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs last year started studying Sino-India relations, including the face-off at Doklam, the boundary dispute, the situation along the Line of Actual Control and the cooperation between the two nations in the international organizations. It was close to submitting its report to Lok Sabha during the last monsoon session of Parliament, but could not, as the Congress and the BJP members differed over its content. Its chairman, Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, finally submitted the report to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on September 4 last.
The panel noted that even if the Chinese PLA had withdrawn troops from Doklam Plateau “for the time being”, New Delhi should not take Beijing's strategic intentions “casually”. The committee urged Modi Government “not to let its vigil down in order to prevent any untoward incident in future”.
Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra deposed before the committee in October 2017 and stated that the Chinese PLA troops were well within the territory of China. He noted that the deployment of the Chinese PLA soldiers was “not unusual”, given “the training and exercise schedules” at that point of time in the year.
S Jaishankar, the then Foreign Secretary, also deposed before the committee in October 2017 and conveyed that the Chinese PLA had not made any effort to build roads at and in the vicinity of the face-off site in Doklam Plateau after both sides had withdrawn troops. Jaishankar's successor, Vijay Gokhale, told the committee in February this year that Indian Army had intervened and stopped the Chinese PLA from constructing a road in Doklam Plateau in June 2017, because it would have prejudiced the determination of India-China-Bhutan trijunction boundary point and resulted in serious security implications for India.